Central government ministries and agencies have been shockingly lax in abiding by a legally mandated employment quota for people with disabilities, while rigorously enforcing the standard on the private sector.

Multiple entities, including the internal affairs ministry and the farm ministry, are suspected of having inflated figures for the number of people with disabilities they employ.

They apparently included people who are not officially classed as disabled in the employment numbers because those individuals did not possess a physical disability certificate, an intellectual disability certificate or a mental disability certificate issued by a doctor.

Labor ministry guidelines for the disability employment quota system require status confirmation with these documents.

Similar lapses in the implementation of the system were uncovered at many local governments that went through their own records.

We need to assume that the problem of lax status screening has been widespread within the public sector.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare is investigating the extent of the problem and will announce its results before long.

But the inquiry should be expanded to cover local governments as well. At the same time, the ministry should craft and implement effective measures to fix the problem.

The system to require the central and local governments to ensure that disabled people constitute a certain percentage of the workforce was established in 1960.

In 1976, the mandatory quota system was expanded to cover private-sector companies.

The system is designed to promote the right of people with mental or physical disabilities to find gainful employment and fulfillment using their own abilities.

A higher disability employment target has been set for central and local government entities than for private-sector firms. That’s because the public sector should set an example by demonstrating its commitment to the cause.

The labor ministry announced that the average rate of disabled employees at central government entities was 2.49 percent last year, with most bodies meeting the legally required rate of 2.3 percent.

But the credibility of the figure is now in doubt. The lapses reflect a disturbing lack of commitment to the important policy goal of equality and cooperation among all members of society.

One factor behind the lax screening is the less rigorous way the quota is enforced on ministries and agencies than on private-sector businesses.

Companies with 100 or more employees that fail to meet the quota have to pay fines, depending on the size of the shortfalls.

These companies are also subject to periodic inspections to check whether their disability employment numbers are accurate.

There is no such enforcement system for public organizations. It is clearly necessary to review and reform the monitoring and enforcement regime.

In 2014, it was revealed that an independent administrative agency under the supervision of the labor and welfare ministry had falsified reports on disability employment to inflate the number of disabled people it had hired.

The ministry responded to the case by initiating inspections at independent administrative agencies. But it has not started similar inspections of central and local government entities.

This obviously reflects the government’s tendency to be soft on its own kind.

The legal disability employment quota for the central and local governments was raised to 2.5 percent in April.

Raising the quota, however, is meaningless if there is no effective system to monitor how the organizations actually try to meet it.

Public trust in the system cannot be regained unless an exhaustive investigation into the allegations is conducted and severe punishment is meted out for malicious violations.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 23